PITTSBORO — Chatham County Schools parent Jessica Winger formally announced her candidacy for the district’s Dist. 3 Board of Education seat last Wednesday, after first announcing her intended run during the public comments portion at last Monday’s board meeting.
Winger, who has four children at CCS, has been a vocal proponent of an optional school masking policy over the last year at board meetings. She also consistently advocated for a return to in-person learning while CCS was in a hybrid or remote learning schedule.
“Amidst the upheaval in public education during the last two years, Mrs. Winger became an active advocate at Chatham Board of Education meetings by consistently providing her perspective as a parent who had, within her own household, experienced the full ramifications of pandemic-related policies,” an emailed release on Wednesday said. “Over that time, she has brought greater community awareness to the decisions made by the school board as well as the details of board procedures and the processes by which the board operates. She spreads understanding at first through informal conversations, and later by creating and managing the ‘Parents of Chatham County Schools NC’ Facebook page.”
The Dist. 3 seat is currently held by Vice Chairperson Del Turner, who has served on the board since 2010. Turner, who volunteered in schools in various roles for more than 35 years, has consistently fought for cautious COVID protocols on the board. At Monday’s meeting, she was the only board member to vote against a gradual approach to optional masking “on or around March 7” because it was too soon to do so. (Board member David Hamm also voted against the motion, but because he said March 7 wasn’t soon enough.)
Ahead of the board’s contentious vote, Winger urged a shift to optional masking before announcing her run for the board.
“In the past year and a half, I’ve witnessed the disconnect in out-of-touch views of the board members, and I’ve heard parents and students’ voices marginalized,” she said, adding that school board members are supposed to be nonpartisan. “Our community is filled with many different views, but you wouldn’t know that from listening to a board meeting. So, when are families going to be fairly represented?”
Winger then said she would run for the seat, receiving applause and some cheers from those in attendance.
“I will be the family’s voices at these board meetings. I will represent the diverse views,” she said. “I will listen to you and try to bring those voices to these meetings instead of marginalizing them. This is not about a parent takeover, but we need a voice in this conversation.”
Winger is a parent representative on North Chatham Elementary School’s Leadership Team (SLT), is an active member of the North Chatham Elementary School PTA and recently became a substitute teacher at CCS. She also volunteers with the children’s activity group at her church and teaches yoga.
You can learn more about Winger’s campaign here.
Though the board is divided by districts, each member is selected at-large, meaning any Chatham voter can vote in the Dist. 3 race in November. As a nonpartisan race, the Board of Education races will not be on the primary ballot this summer, only the November general election.
Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.